Yes, neither Gujarat development nor the so called Hindutva aspect made Modi popular. His popularity is in fact on his personality. People of India at the moment are frustrated with incompetent and dishonest political leaders. Modi over the past twelve years proved to be a competent, decisive, no-nonsense and a relatively honest administrator. His uncompromising development spree is the most attractive.
Let’s see how his personality developed as chief minister of Gujarat. There is no question that BJP retained power in 2002 assembly elections, riding on sentimental and emotional polarization. The polarization was so huge, even VHP and some RSS cadres started practicing hard Hindutva. Many claim, Gujarat is now the laboratory for Hindutva. But, Modi knew that one can come to power riding on polarization for once, but not often. Particularly in India, majority community rarely polarizes. Hence to be in power, he identified development as the Mantra.
None has ever contested election on development. He decided once and started working on it. He didn’t allow VHP and RSS cadre to practice Hindutva as he knew that in this polarization process, his mantra of development will vanish. Soon he became enemy to VHP and RSS. Pravin Togadia and Sanjay Joshi became harsh critic of Modi. But Modi didn’t relent and made both Joshi and Togadia non-functional at least in Gujarat.
In 2007 election, he contested on the development flank. It’s Sonia Gandhi, who started speaking ‘Merchant of Death’ raking up 2002 riot. Modi has always proved smart to return all the jibes packaging in his own style. Thus along with development, Congress inflicted polarization helped Modi to retain power in Gujarat. He further focused on Gujarat development and then prepared himself to make himself qualified to be a Prime Ministerial candidate.
He did ‘Sadbhavana yatra’ and all other initiatives. He branded Gujarat as best place for investment. He had swiftly taken Nano factory from Bengal to Gujarat. His success story spread like anything. Then there was a scene of a Muslim offering him a hat. Ordinarily vote hankering persons would wear the hat to be seen as acceptable. But, he didn’t wear that hat. The indication is simple, he didn’t believe in tokenism. He is for Sadbhavana, but not for cheap symbolic action.
Then came 2012 assembly election. This time, Congress didn’t rake up the 2002 issue. The entire election was on development alone. Modi still won. He proved that development can be an election issue. Then he remained firm on his Delhi mission. He was finally anointed as Prime Ministerial candidate. After which, he started speaking in rallies. All his speeches were not based on communal lines, rather on development, unity, national interest.
With all these events, people started to become Narendra Modi's fan. They took persona Narendra Modi hand in hand as everyone felt hollowness of leadership in national polity. Neither from Congress or from BJP appears to be more credible because of their past flip-fluffs, double speak, duality, incompetence and non-performance. Compared to others Modi appeared to be very decisive, competent, no-nonsense leader and relatively honest among all.
Yes, he has brilliant oratory skill also. This is an added advantage of his. Through his speeches he convinced people, what he is, what’s his vision and what’s the road ahead. Parties which were thinking that BJP is untouchable started tying with Modi.
If somebody thought about BJP one year ago, he would definitely be astonished about the upsurge of BJP in this one year and particularly after Modi was anointed as the Prime Ministerial candidate.
Some say, Modi is master in branding his image and packaging his success. So what wrong in it? Everyone in this electoral market brands themselves and package their manifesto. If Modi is smarter than them, how is it Modi's mistake?
Many experts have to agree that it is Modi, who made BJP a winnable party at the moment. Many claim, if BJP can’t do it this time, it never will.